Searle's Chinese Room Argument

From: Pascoe Clare (
Date: Thu May 23 1996 - 14:19:27 BST

What is Searle's Chinese Room Argument?

Support for the primacy of robotic capacity comes from a 'thought
experiment' originally proposed by John Searle. This thought experiment
was called the 'Chinese Room Argument.' This challenged the Turing
test, (a test with a likelihood of converging on the true necessary and
sufficient conditions for having a mind). There is a computer where
Chinese symbols can be used and the machine will respond with symbols
just like a Chinese pen-pal. No one can tell that it's a machine, not a
person. You could conclude, the computer had a mind and understood the
symbols, but Searle challenges this saying, the only thing the computer
is doing is following rules for manipulating symbols on the basis of
their shapes. For example, if he took the computer's place and followed
instructions for manipulating the symbols, this could be done without
actually understanding them. So the computer would not be understanding
either, so does not have a mind. This opposes the validity of the
Turing Test. The only way to know if another body has a mind is by
being the other body. Searle's argument does this. Altough he can't say
whether the computer understands Chinese, it is not because of the
computational state it is implementing, because Searle is implementing
the very same computational state and can say he is understanding no

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